I really didn’t start paying attention to children’s books until my son was born in 2013. When he became a toddler, we would attend the local library story time once a week. I found myself browsing the aisles and seeing lots of beautiful and colorful artwork on the covers of books but what was painstakingly obvious was that most of the characters in these stories were white. Here is my question: How are kids from different ethnicities, cultures, and backgrounds supposed to connect to these white characters?
Children, believe it or not, notice differences in their early years. It is our responsibility as parents to have these ongoing conversations with our children. After all, it does add to their existing observations about human diversity. The stories they are exposed to, whether written or verbal, help shape their sense of self, understanding to the world and the people in it, as well as their potential roles in life. My son is multiracial and both my husband and I feel it is very important to have a more inclusive home library. This way, he can identify and envision his place in the world.
People tend to fear what they do not understand. If we diversify our home library, we diversify our conversations. From that, we have the ability to grow a foundation of understanding about people who may look different and have different cultural values, attitudes, beliefs, and abilities than us.
Unfortunately, the percentage of children’s books released each year by a person of color or with a multicultural theme, has been unchanged for years. What you can do as a parent or concerned community member is contact your local library and request books that represent inclusion.
Here are a few inclusive books that our family enjoys reading:
• Double Trouble For Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke and Lauren Tobia
• The Beckoning Cat by Koko Nishizuka
• Earth Mother by Ellen Jackson
• Jonathon and His Mommy by Irene Smalls
• My Daddy Rules the World (A collection of poems) by Hope Anita Smith
• The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
• I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes
• Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang
• Mooncakes by Loretta Seto
-Ashley Giha, Board Member